Under The Union Jack, No. 4, Vol. 1, December 2nd 1899

Dec. 2,1899.} THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 75 BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. TURNING H'I' E TAB LES. THE war has now reached a stage that is intensely interesting. The situation in Natal developed with extreme rapidity, and General Joubert embarked on ambitious schemes to the south of Estcourt which surprised those who have studied the war, and which will probably be his ruin. He seemed to be venturing his last stake on a lucky throw, and hoped to snatch a victory out of the jaws of defeat—not defeat in the field, but defeat in the accomplish­ment of plans. For ourselves the opening of the campaign was in some measure unfortunate, but the nature of the operations makes success supremely important, and though the war may belong continued, we shall assuredly reap victory in the end. We transported, if a little tardily, forces to South Africa larger than were ever at sea before, and have now to garner the fruit of our endeavour. The men who are in the field are to accomplish a work for the Empire quite as great in its way as ever our soldiers have accomplished before. It must never be forgotten, as this page declares, that we are “battling for Empire”—to secure, consolidate, and perfect what our fathers have won, and the manner in which we do it is very striking. No power in the world but England would dare to launch upon the water such a stupendous force as we have sent and are sending to Africa—lives so many and valuable, stores of every class for the conducting of the campaign, every requirement for service in the field. Read the papers of the Continent and you will see that we are hated, and that it is only our silent sea power that enables us to work the wonder. Here are ships that convey one battalion, sometimes two, details, supernumeraries, horses, mules, tents, guns, ammuni­tion, stores, steam sappers and trench diggers, and what else it is hard to say, and they transport them across 6,000 miles of open sea—open and yet protected by avery efficient naval patrol. What, then, has been the effect upon the Boers of this great inflow of men ?It would seem that they have been impelled to desperate courses, but we must not overlook the fact that the Boer is by nature a stolid, hard-fighting, ignorant man. The impression which General Joubert had made upon Ladysmith had been slight. His bombardment, though he possessed many advantages, was comparatively ineffec­tive. According to their own account the Boers con­verted the place into a “lurid inferno,” while whistling and shrieking shells sped from all parts of the compass to the doomed city. At the same time Commandant Botha, on the south side of the place, was fain to admit that our guns continually dropped shells into the Boer batteries, and he spoke of one occasion when the Pretoria commando was in avery tight place, and its position became untenable. But the fact is that the town and camp suffered little, and that General Joubert realised that he could not carry the place by assault, since it was well supplied with stores and had a fighting garrison of at least 10,000. He, therefore, entered upon a bolder line of strategy. South of Ladysmith runs the river Tugela, which the railway crossed by a girder bridge at Colenso. That bridge was blown upon November 15th, and the Boers thereby gained no small advantage. It appeared to General Joubert that he could mask Ladysmith with a smaller force, and he advanced southward with a strong body, while the Free Staters approached Estcourt from the west. There is another bridge lower down the Tugela, over which the road passes to Weenen, and thence to Estcourt, and Joubert may have made use of it. But Sir George White was upon the alert, his energy being by no means exhausted, and Ladysmith became distinctly aggressive. However before describing what ensued it is now time to turn to Joubert’s venturesome operations. T heB fro Advance. The attack upon the armoured train at Chieveley, of which an account was given last week, was the prelude of the remark­able events that followed, and was the first real sign of the advance in force which was then beginning, and which soon extended southward to the Mooi River and beyond. Natal has sufiered still further from this invasion of new territory. Cattle have been looted, farms plundered, and waste spread through the land, and the farmers have come south, driving their livestock before them. Natal certainly will claim a rich reward for her steadfastness and courage. One reason of the Boer advance was probably the grievous position in which they found themselves through sickness and scarcity but th. ir purpose of cutting our forces in Natal into separate sections and isolating them was soon apparent. Just as Ladysmith bad been cutoff by breaking the railway and bridge, Estcourt, where General Ilildyard is in command, was isolated by wrecking the line near Highlands Station, which is the next north of the Mooi River. Communication between Maritzburg and Durban ceased afternoon on November 21st, and a large commando of Free Staters, said to number 3,000, with guns, was signalled at Fort Nottingham, some miles to the south-west of Estcourt. The Boers were thus able to raid the valley of the Mooi, which was rich in cattledriven south, and they carried off 300 blood horses from the Natal Stud Company’s farm, valued at ^15,000. For all these serious depredations the bold adversary must be made to pay, and General Sir C.F. Clery, commanding south of Ladysmith, has promised that they shall do so. The object of the advance was soon seen to bean attempt to rush Pieter Maritz- burg, abut considerable force was detailed to attack Major- General Barton at the Mooi River. On November 22nd and 23rd his camp was shelled, but the enemy gained no advan­tage, though his guns proved to be of longer range than ours. Evidently a bold game was being played, of which the end could not be foreseen. The movements of General Clery were carefully concealed, and Sir Redvers Buller went round to Natal to confer with him. General Bull e r’s Strategy .Of course, such a policy as the Boers entered upon was of the very rashest in the circumstances. It is as if they were counting upon a great stroke of luck in their desperate game. Here was their last chance. They subjected themselves to be attacked in conditions the least favourable to their forces, where they ran the risk of being defeated, where defeat would be disaster, and of being cutoff or taken in the rear, where escape would be impossible. But it would abe great mistake to look upon the opera­tions in Natal as the whole or even the chief feature of the campaign. On the other side of the Free State we have long been growing stronger at De Aar and the Orange River Station, where the railway from the Cape crosses to Kimberley, and that bridge is, in fact, impregnable. While the Brigade of Guards, under command of Major-General Sir II. E. Colvile, with the Highland Brigade, under Major-General H.E. Wauchope, a Naval Brigade, and other troops, Lord Methuen being in command of the whole force, was preparing for active operations on the Western Frontier, with the relief of Kimberley as the object, General Gataere was making ready a third column to advance from the sea at East London and the CONTAINS PICTURES FROM THE TRANSVAAL.
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